Pepe Oriola was delighted to have scored pole position for the opening TCR International Series race in Thailand, which the injured Craft-Bamboo Racing driver admits he wasn’t expecting.
Oriola’s first pole of the season was also the closest in TCR history, as the Spaniard beat WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli by just 0.001 seconds to also take the championship lead.
The top spot in qualifying came as a bit of a surprise for Oriola, who had yesterday opted to sit out all four of the private TCR test sessions because he injured his foot during training for the event.
“I am really happy with this pole that I didn’t expect at all,” said Oriola. “After free practice and Q1, I could never expect to beat Gianni, but I did, despite having to abort my first attempt because of traffic.
“Then, I found myself alone and I really enjoyed that clear lap. I know that it’s when you enjoy driving that you are faster, but still, I didn’t expect that to be the pole, the first this season.
“Although yesterday I preferred not to put force on my foot in the test day, now I have achieved my first pole of the season. I am very happy because I have overcome this adversity.”
As a result of taking pole, Oriola claims five points and moves into the championship lead, with a two-point margin over arch-rival Stefano Comini heading into Sunday’s races.
“The points attached to it allowed me to retake the lead in the standings, but that doesn’t mean anything, we still have eight races to go, and I won’t think about that until Macau.”
“Tomorrow I have a great opportunity in the first race and I will fight for victory that allows me to maintain the lead of the TCR championship.
“It has been a hard and intense day with 24 cars on the track, but I have not let the foot pain prevent me to be at the highest level in qualifying this morning.
“We are arriving at the end of this championship, there are only four meetings left, and I am still fighting for the title.”